Nice court jails thieving 'Sultan'

12th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

NICE, France, Dec 11 (AFP) - A Frenchman of Algerian-Lebanese descent who passed himself off as a wealthy Arab prince to steal jewels from European luxury boutiques on Thursday received a seven-year jail sentence and a EUR 240,000 (USD 300,000) fine for his smooth life of crime.

NICE, France, Dec 11 (AFP) - A Frenchman of Algerian-Lebanese descent who passed himself off as a wealthy Arab prince to steal jewels from European luxury boutiques on Thursday received a seven-year jail sentence and a EUR 240,000 (USD 300,000) fine for his smooth life of crime.

The lawyers of Jean Herrina, 47, immediately declared they would appeal the verdict, claiming their client was a "gentleman thief" who had used imagination, not arms, to make off with millions of euros in gems.

Herrina - who often went by the nicknames "the Sultan" or "the Emir" - was arrested in the French Riviera city of Nice in September last year after a long spree that owed much to his command of languages, a coterie of relatives and helpers, and, above all, his audacious ability to credibly act like a client with an eye for jewels and a very big fortune.

Among his operations he carried out was a light-fingered visit to an upmarket jeweller's in an exclusive Riviera hotel on August 13, 2002 during which posed as a potential customer who wanted to see the top-shelf stones on sale.

A surveillance camera caught the moment that he managed to nab the most-prized gem, a 10.24-carat diamond worth EUR 150,000, from the display shelf right in front of the salesgirl and then calmly leave the shop, saying he needed more time to think about his supposed purchase.

It was only when the salesgirl started putting the diamonds back in the case that she realized what had happened.

He used a similar trick the following month in Marbella, Spain, when, accompanied by his veiled niece, he pretended to be a member of the Saudi royal family who discreetly wanted to buy an expensive gift for a mistress.

After examining the pieces, he took a 22.22-carat diamond worth an estimated EUR 3 million and left, telling the shop employees he would have his servants send payment later on.

The Nice court Thursday sentenced the niece in the Spanish caper, Olivia Mustafa, 22, to six months in prison, and acquitted Herrina's 23-year-old girlfriend, Meriem Labiad, of charges of aiding and abetting.

Gerard Baudoux, one of Herrina's lawyers, said his client had "an indisputable talent for changing his personality and getting close to things without anyone being aware of his plans."

He added: "As much as a criminal can be likeable, he is an extremely likeable criminal."

 © AFP

                                                                Subject: France news

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